VESA Local Bus

The VESA Local Bus, also called VL-Bus or more commonly VLB, was the first local bus used on PCs. Introduced in 1992, VLB video became very popular during the heyday of the 486, in particular 1993 to 1994. VLB cards can be easily identified by their longer connectors, compared to standard ISA card slots. See here for details on the VESA local bus.

VLB video cards provide, in general, much better performance than ISA cards. This is primarily due to the fact that the 32-bit local bus used by VLB cards allows for several times more data throughput between the card and the processor than ISA allows. VLB has however had its own share of problems. In particular, VLB video cards may cause reliability problems in motherboards running at 40 or 50 MHz.

Many VLB cards are very good performers, but are hampered by their general age, along with that of the motherboards they run in; most are at least four years old and new development of better and faster chipsets is entirely in the PCI world now. Still, despite the fact that VLB is older than PCI, it can provide quite acceptable performance (although probably fewer features and less video memory). VLB is much closer to PCI than it is to ISA. Any system that will support VLB should be using it for the video card; the performance improvement over ISA is substantial in most cases.

Note: VESA Local Bus video is generally limited to 486 PCs (or other motherboards that use a fourth-generation processor). The vast majority of Pentiums and later PCs use PCI (or AGP) and do not support VLB at all, although there are some very old Pentium systems that are VLB-based.


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This is an archive of Charles M. Kozierok’s PCGuide (pcguide.com) which disappeared from the internet in 2018. We wanted to preserve Charles M. Kozierok’s knowledge about computers and are permanently hosting a selection of important pages from PCGuide.

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  1. Pingback: VLB for x86 - Karls Technology Computer Repair Blog

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